The greatest moment in Cougars franchise history occurred on May 1, 1981, when Victoria won the WHL championship. After that record-breaking season, the Cougars struggled on and off the ice. Over the next thirteen years, Victoria only managed four playoff appearances and one series win. We conclude our two-part series by looking back at the final captains in Cougars history. From the NHL to law enforcement, these young leaders went on to successful careers in and out of hockey.
Russ Courtnall (1983/84) - One of three brothers to play for the Cougars. The speedy forward grew up playing hockey for the Victoria Racquet Club. As a sixteen-year-old, Courtnall attended Athol Murray College in Saskatchewan, where he notched 153 points in 53 games for the 1981/82 Notre Dame Hounds. The Cougars obtained Courtnall in an August 1982 trade with the Calgary Wranglers in exchange for defenseman Steve Zimmel.
As a Cougar rookie in 1982/83, Courtnall made an immediate impact. Playing alongside his older brother Geoff, Russ finished with 97 points. That summer, The Toronto Maple Leafs selected Russ 9th overall at the 1983 NHL draft. He was the first WHL player selected and the fourth-highest pick in Cougars history.
Upon returning from Toronto’s 1983 training camp, coach Dave Andrews named Courtnall the tenth Cougars captain in team history. To start the 1983/84 campaign, he got off to a roaring start with 64 points in 30 games. In December, Courtnall joined the Canadian squad for the World Junior Championship. (Read more about Russ Courtnall and his experience at the World Juniors)
At the World Juniors, Courtnall led the team in scoring but the Canadians finished with a disappointing fourth-place finish. After the tournament, Dave King recruited Courtnall for the 1984 Canadian Olympic Team. He returned to Victoria when the Olympics concluded, but it was for just one game. On February 26, 1984, Courtnall got the call to join the Maple Leafs. He made his NHL debut that night in Vancouver against the Canucks. Courtnall stayed with Toronto for the remainder of the year, picking up 12 points in 14 games. 1982/83 is significant for Courtnall as he became the first Canadian to play in the World Junior Championships, the Olympics and the NHL in the same season.
After a 16-year career and 744 points, Courtnall retired in 1999. He is second in all-time NHL career points by a Victoria Cougar graduate - only behind his brother Geoff with 799 points. Russ and Geoff were the first brother combination to each appear in 1,000 career NHL games. Courtnall and comedian Jim Jerome have a weekly podcast called the Suspendables.
Richard Hajdu (1983-85) Raised in Lake Cowichan, Hajdu earned a roster spot with the Kamloops Junior Oilers as a sixteen-year-old. In 1983, Victoria acquired Hajdu in an offseason trade for Ron Viglassi. When Russ Courtnall was at the World Juniors, Hajdu took on the captaincy and was named permanent captain for the 1984/85 season. The Buffalo Sabres second-round pick suffered numerous injuries in 1984/85 and appeared in only 24 games.
Between 1986 and 1987, Hajdu saw action in five NHL games for the Sabres. He went on to play three years with the Canadian National Team, two years in Austria and retired after the 1992/93 season. Hajdu currently lives in Duncan and is a realtor for Pemberton Holmes.
Simon Wheeldon (1985/86) - One of the most talented forwards to put on a Cougar jersey. Although the 1985/86 team missed the playoffs, Wheeldon and linemate Ken Priestlay put together a record-breaking season. Wheeldon scored 157 points (tying Mel Bridgman’s team record), and Priestlay sniped 73 goals (the most in franchise history). Wheeldon earned a spot on the 1985/86 West Division second-team all-star team for the second year in a row.
For the next few years, Wheeldon skated for teams in the AHL and IHL. He played in 15 games for the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets between 1987 and 1991. In 1992, he moved to Austria and became a citizen. His new citizenship allowed him to appear in four IIHF World Championships and two Olympics for the Austrian National team. Wheeldon is currently a financial advisor for Wood Gundy in Nelson, BC (Read more about Simon Wheeldon and his Olympic journey)
Jim Kambeitz (1986/87) - Enjoyed a long WHL career that spanned four teams over six years. He played his first game as a fifteen-year-old during the 1982/83 season with Medicine Hat. In 1986, he was part of one of the biggest trades in Cougars' history. Victoria received Kambeitz, Will Anderson, Clayton Young, and the rights to Rod Brind’amour, for Randy Hansch and Chris Tarnowski.
As captain, he led Victoria to their first playoff appearance in three years. Kambietz had a career-high 60 points (33G - 27A) and 177 penalty minutes in 67 games. The 1986/87 Cougars also set the current WHL team record for penalty minutes in a season with 3,826.
Jim’s son Dino Kambeitz played for the Victoria Royals from 2016 to 2019 and is currently with the Bakersfield Condors.
Gary Moscaluk (1987/88) - Acquired by Victoria in an offseason trade with the New Westminster Bruins. Attended the 1987 Vancouver Canucks training camp on a try-out before joining the Cougars. He appeared in 58 games, collecting 46 points and was named the Cougars defenseman of the year (shared with Andrew Wolf). Next season he signed a free-agent contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Joel Savage (1988/89) - The second-year winger had a breakout season with the Cougars in 1987/88. NHL scouts called Savage, “a spirited and aggressive player” and projected him as a high NHL draft pick. In his draft year, Savage scored 37 goals and averaged a point a game. He was selected in the first round (13th overall) by the Buffalo Sabres at the 1988 NHL entry draft. Savage was the last Cougar drafted in the first round.
After returning to Victoria from Buffalo’s 1988 training camp, he was given the “C” by coach Wayne Naka. It was a difficult season for Savage as he only managed 17 goals in 60 games. Although he struggled offensively, Savage guided the Cougars to their final playoff appearance in franchise history.
Savage never lived up to the expectations of a high first-round draft pick but had a 16-year pro hockey career. He appeared in three NHL games for Buffalo in 1990 with stops in the AHL, IHL, Switzerland, Germany and captained the Canadian National Team.
“I didn’t have a storied NHL career, but I had a really versatile career which challenged me with a lot of adversity. The highs and lows were pretty high profile, but I got to see the world while playing the game I love,” - Joel Savage (1)
Rob Sumner (1989/90) – The steady blueliner was one of the few bright spots on a Cougar team that won only five games. Even though the team set WHL records for futility, the Calgary Flames selected Sumner in the fifth round of the 1990 NHL entry draft.
As a two-sport athlete, he spent his summers playing lacrosse for the Victoria Eagles. The Victoria Shamrocks selected Sumner in the 1992 junior draft, and he later played in the Western Lacrosse Association with the Burnaby Lakers.
In 1996, Sumner returned to the WHL and enjoyed a long tenure on the Seattle Thunderbirds coaching staff. He spent seven years as an assistant (1996-2004) and seven years as head coach (2004 to 2011). After the 2010/11 season, he joined the Calgary Flames as a scout and has been their Assistant Director of Scouting since 2017.
Dwayne Newman (1990-92) Set a WHL record by appearing in 311 consecutive games from February 2, 1988, through March 17, 1992. His record stood for 21 years until Justin Feser of the Tri-City Americans broke it in 2013. Newman’s streak began with the Brandon Wheat Kings and continued when he joined Victoria via a trade in 1990. In his two years as captain, Newman picked up 27 points and 286 penalty minutes. Newman went undrafted but attended the Winnipeg Jets 1991 training camp.
After three years patrolling the blueline at the University of Manitoba, Newman enjoyed a long career in the United Kingdom. The Peterborough Phantoms of the National Ice Hockey League honoured Newman by retiring his number 22 jersey in 2014.
Brad Scott (1992/93) - Scott was one of coach Archie Henderson's favourite players and called the rugged forward a “blood and guts kind of player.” (2) After two years with Regina, Scott joined the Cougars in 1992 for his final WHL season. He went on to pick up 48 points and 170 penalty minutes in 68 games.
After playing nine years in Germany, he returned to Victoria and became an Oak Bay Fireman. In 2021, Scott received a 20-year Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal from the Oak Bay Fire Department.
Dean Tiltgen (1993/94) - It is a shame how Dean Tiltgen was treated by Cougars management. In 1992/93, he scored 111 points for the Red Deer Rebels. After his all-star season, the Cougars traded for Titlgen and immediately named him captain. Owner/GM Rick Brodsky expected huge offensive numbers from Tiltgen despite playing on a less talented team in Victoria. In an interview with the Times-Colonist, the Cougars' owner put unrealistic expectations on Tiltgen, “Brodsky is certain Tiltgen is the player to reverse his sagging fortunes in Victoria” (3)
When Tiltgen got off to a slow start, the fans at Memorial Arena started to boo him. The slow start was due to an injured ankle he received the previous season. Brodsky said he was unaware of the injury when he made the trade. Tiltgen had surgery before training camp and played in pain throughout the year. He was also grieving the death of his former teammate and best friend Todd Klassen, who was killed in a car accident a few months prior. Tiltgen actually put up solid numbers for the Cougars with 23 points in 29 games. During this time, management did nothing to support Tiltgen, and the jeering continued. In November, Brodsky announced that Tiltgen would be traded. The statement only intensified the fan anger, and the unnecessary drama caused the team to flounder. Rumoured deals appeared in the Times-Colonist for weeks. Finally, on December 12th, Tiltgen was traded to the Tri-Cities Americans.
“People expect too much” Tiltgen said,” I think they expected me to turn this into a third-place team by myself. I don’t think any player can do that.” (4)
Tiltgen and the Americans would later eliminate the Cougars from the playoffs in the last game of the season. He would go on to the University of Alberta and six years in the ECHL. He won a Taylor Cup (WCHL) with the San Diego Gulls in 2002/03. Tiltgen is now a realtor in North Carolina.
Rob Butz (1993/94) - The final captain in Victoria Cougars history. Although Butz went undrafted, he signed a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs before the 1993/94 season. After the Tiltgen trade, Butz was selected by his teammates as the new captain. The scrappy winger scored 48 points for the 1993/94 Cougars. He later played three years for the St. John’s Maple Leafs before retiring in 1997 to pursue a career in law enforcement.
(1) Joel Savage - Skating in Circles, imperialoil.ca
(2) “Brodsky steers new course”, Darron Kloster, September 27, 1992 (Page 18 of 59). Times Colonist (1980-2010) 1992 Sep 27(289):18.
(3) “Tiltgen tours hockey home” Darron Kloster, June 29, 1993 (Page 18 of 40). Times Colonist (1980-2010) 1993 Jun 29(196):18.
(4) “Numbers don’t tell the whole story behind Cougar captain” Jeff Rud, November 29, 1993 (Page 16 of 30). Times Colonist (1980-2010) 1993 Nov 29(344):16.